Getting the facts on Cedars sale

BY DAVID BAUGHER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The recent change in ownership of the Cedars at the JCA, which took effect Aug. 1, has left a variety of questions for residents and members of the Jewish community. In an effort to answer those questions and clear up any confusion, here is a quick primer on the present situation of the facility.

What is the history of the Cedars?

In 1885, local Reform Jews organized the Home for Aged and Infirm Israelites. In 1907, the Jewish Orthodox Old Folks Home was established on Grand Avenue. The two homes merged into the Jewish Center for Aged in 1940. By the 1970s, the JCA (now the Cedars at the JCA) moved from the Grand Avenue location to West County.

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How did the Cedars arrive in its present situation?

In 2003, the JCA constructed a new 252-bed facility known as the Cedars at the JCA but debts incurred in the post-9/11 economy made the facility’s financial situation unsustainable forcing it to default on its obligations. Its note was auctioned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and purchased by PAMI Autumn, LLC, an affiliate of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., a large financial services firm that declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. Litigation resulted from PAMI’s attempts to foreclose on the Cedars property but eventually both sides negotiated an agreement, which led to a change in ownership effective at the beginning of this month.

Who owns the Cedars facility now?

The new owner of the property is a company called MO 13190 South Outer Road, LLC, an affiliate of PAMI Autumn. JCA board president Ken Rubin said the property changing hands includes the structure and its associated 25-acre tract. The JCA organization retains ownership of eight acres of land where the original facility was previously located but no longer owns the new building or controls its operations.

Who will run the facility?

Traditions Management of St. Louis, a company founded early in the last decade, has been managing the Cedars for two years for the JCA board and will continue to do so. The Florida-based Traditions operates 12 facilities nationwide but Cedars is its sole entity in St. Louis. An advisory committee, likely to include some JCA board members, will work with management to ensure the Judaic character of the facility continues. Traditions said its agreement with the ownership has no timeframe and can be terminated by either side.

Will new owners play a role in day-to-day operations?

No. Through a Lehman Brothers spokesman, PAMI Autumn has stated that Traditions, the operator, will direct the facility’s daily operations.

Does Traditions only manage Jewish facilities?

No. Traditions operates senior facilities of various types though co-founder and CEO Ben Atkins is Jewish.

Will the Cedars remain Jewish?

Agreements reached with the new owners have stipulated that the facility will retain a Jewish character for at least a certain period of time. Barry Rosenberg, executive vice-president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, has mentioned the figure of three years. Traditions’ Atkins said, “I’m sure it will be that way forever. Bottom line is that it is a Jewish facility.”

Will life at the Cedars change?

Traditions stresses that life at the facility will operate much as it has for the past two years since there has been no change in operational management.

Will the name change?

No. The official name of the lessee run by Traditions is the West County Regional Rehab Center, LLC. However, it will still do business under the name Cedars at the JCA.

Will the facility still be kosher?

Traditions says kosher food will remain available at the Cedars and it has contracted with Simon Kohn’s Kosher Market to provide kosher meals.

Will prices change?

PAMI said pricing decisions will be made by the facility’s operator. Atkins confirmed no rate hikes due to the new ownership situation. He said that a “normal annual increase” is likely to occur due to usual changes in costs.